Review: THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris (2021)

Genre: Adult Literary Suspense
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Microaggressions, racism, stalking, kidnapping

A new co-worker in the office tends to be exciting. When another Black girl arrives and Nella Rogers is no longer the only Black girl her at her company, strange things begin to happen. Mysterious notes and cryptic texts telling her to leave Wagner send Nella in a spiral that could unravel the fabric of reality itself.

Excellent in its twists, and takes its sweet time establishing understanding, The Other Black Girl interrogates the publishing infrastructure for its lack of diversity while also introducing dread and menace in a tightly woven mystery.

If this has been pitched to you as Get Out meets The Stepford Wives but make it publishing, you’ve got an accurate description of this book.

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ARC Review: THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Nghi Vo (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy
Year Release: June 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: homophobia, racism, abortion, domestic violence, car accidents, alcoholism

In this queer reimagining of The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker is a queer, Vietnamese adoptee and socialite with all the beautiful sharp edges of stained glass. It’s deeply sensual and takes full advantage of almost a century of historical contextualizing. There’s glitz, glamour, and paper craft magic that fully immerses the reader in its time period and aesthetic.

I’m not saying this book is perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. The Chosen and the Beautiful perfectly captures the horniness of a summer fling with all the yearning horror of watching your best friend make increasingly ill-advised decisions when it comes to the men in her life.

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ARC Review: THE NEXT EVEREST: Surviving the Mountain’s Deadliest Day and Finding the Resilience to Climb Again by Jim Davidson (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: May 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: frostbite, crevasses, heights, death, cancer, heart attack

Climbing Mount Everest, know as Chomolungma in Nepal, is considered a great achievement for any climber. After training for years, author Jim Davidson finally has his chance at the peak. But in 2015, an earthquake hits, making an already tenuous climb that much dangerous.

Two years pass and Davidson resolves to make one more run for the summit. This autobiographical account of both climbs covers much territory, from the personal experiences of the climbs themselves, to the state of Nepal before, during, and after, and personal anecdotes about the people who touched Davidson’s life throughout his climbing career.

Moving, harrowing, but told with much reverence and humility, a great entry into the canon of Mount Everest climbing stories..

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Review: MALICE OF CROWS (The Shadow #3) by Lila Bowen (2017)

Genre: Adult Fantasy Western
Year Release: 2017
Source: Chicago Public Library

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Vomiting, animal violence, gore, gun violence, suicide, surgery, poison, fungus

Trans cowboy Rhett Walker is on the hunt for the alchemist who had run off with Cora’s sister across an alternate version of the U.S. West full of monsters and shifters. The battle to come is the fiercest yet. During his travels, Rhett ponders where boundaries between himself and The Shadow, especially as his found family grows closer together, despite their individual heavy baggage and destinies to come.

This book’s pacing is exquisite and I read it in two sittings. The cliffhanger at the end, however, was so cruel, I immediately requested the fourth and final installment from the library.

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ARC Review: CINDERS OF YESTERDAY (Legacy of Shadows #1) by Jen Karner (2021)

Genre: Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Year Release: June 2021
Buy Links: Barnes & Noble | Indiebound (Audiobook)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the author
Content warning: trauma, parental death, house fires, fantasy violence, psychiatric hospital, immolation

A necromancer named Spectre killed Dani Black’s partner and the hunter is out for revenge. He also haunts Emilie Lockgrove, a medium with repressed memories and a whole bunch of family trauma to unpack. They come together in Dawson, Maryland, in search of a blade and a way to kill the necromancer once and for all.

Smooth as a knife’s edge and just as sharp, an exciting and sapphic new entry into the paranormal genre with plenty of scary monsters to go around.

An interview with author Jen Karner will be up on June 29th, 2021 (release day).

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Review: RASPUTIN: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (2016)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, rape allegations, religious persecution, murder, slander, propaganda, rural poverty

Once again, this nonfiction read comes from being thoroughly entertained by Last Podcast on the Left’s breakdown of the Russian mystic’s biography. Dear reader, there is even more to it than can be covered in a 4-part podcast series.

Douglas Smith’s account of the self-proclaimed holy man not only covers the isolated facts of his life, but also goes into contextualizing both Russian culture at the time and the myths and attitudes that contributed to his notoriety.

Told through letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other primary sources, this very long, captivating read ultimately leaving it up to the reader to piece together the truth about this absolutely ridiculous man. It’d be foolish to say that Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin did nothing wrong, but the antichrist, he was not.

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Review: GOD’S PLAYGROUND: A History of Poland Volume 1: Origins to 1795 by Norman Davies (1982)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 1982
Source: Library Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sometimes you want to write an epic fantasy steeped in its own history. But you’re not interested in British history and nobility, and the only framing you have for the history of your own land is that “it is so boring.” So, you find the most thorough volume you can, and wow, does it deliver.

I got so much out of this volume. From the organization of the social classes (which have nothing to do with economics) and the structure of cities and villages (which also have nothing to do with economics), this book covers so much ground. There are maps, there are charts, and the anecdotes and famous-to-Poland historical figures help create a complete image of this land without national borders as it expands, contracts, and disappears off the map altogether.

What really drew me was the humility Davies shows from the very beginning. He admits that he cannot possibly know as much as someone whose lived experience is Poland. It’s an energy we can all stand to embrace a bit. As such, he also fully recognizes that the lens through which most of his readers will understand European history is through the crown, family lineages, and colonialism of western Europe. There are charts, there are some anti-parallels drawn, with enough repetition to make international relations salient and easy-(enough)-to-follow. What fascinated me the most was how much was considered international in terms of what’s encompassed by the shield-shaped borders seen on contemporary maps. I found it interesting, but that’s probably because I sought this information out myself as opposed to having to learn it for school exams.

Highly recommending this tome if you want a quick overview of the structure of Polish society and culture up through the 18th Century.

Review: THE RESURRECTION OF FULGENCIO RAMIREZ by Rudy Ruiz (2020)

Genre: Adult Magical Realism Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: child abuse, cartel violence, discrimination, hate crimes, alcoholism, physical violence, vehicular manslaughter

Fulgencio Ramirez is a renowned pharmacist in the border town of La Frontera. He scans the newspaper, waiting for news of a death. When it comes, we’re launched into the epic tale of his and Carolina Mendelssohn star-crossed romance, starting in the 50’s and onward. There’s tragedy, heartbreak, the dead not being truly gone, serenades with mariachi bands, roses blooming in winter, and the pursuit of the American dream. This book was a delight through all the twists and turns.

Bittersweet, deeply romantic, the dead are never truly gone in this work of magical realism. In fact, death might just be the beginning.

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ARC Review: FOLKLORN by Angela Mi Young Hur (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: parental death, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, hate crimes, discrimination

Physicist Elsa Park returns from a research trip to Antarctica when she founds out that her catatonic mother had died. All Elsa has left of her is a collection of stories and an uncanny ghost who follows her around. Then begins a search for discovery as Elsa reconnects with the stories she inherited from her mother and what it means for the rest of her adult life. There’s physics, there’s ghosts.

Hypnotic in its exploration of mythology, culture, and family, this literary contemporary fantasy shows how family and mythology have lines that might not at all be clearly defined.

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Review: UNDER THE KNIFE: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold Van de Laar (2018)

Genre: Adult Science Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Infections, sutures, stitches, fatphobia (mentions of obesity), gore, blood, old-timey medicine

Clearly, my non-fiction reads have taken on a specific mood. We have more gross human anatomy and the things people have done to it. This time, it’s not about cadavers, but about the major turning points in development of the operational theater.

Van de Laar clearly has a passion for the work he does. He takes great care describing the importance of his work, but also contextualizing the attitudes and beliefs leading up to the pivotal changes.

My knowledge about medical history barely scratches the surface, so it feels disingenuous to say that I learned a lot. But I did! The histories told here are as interesting as the voyeurism of someone explaining medical procedures. Particular highlights include Bob Marley’s toe, Pope John Paul II’s bullet wound, and the number of times I whispered, “Oh no, don’t do that” while listening. Your mileage may vary depending on your squeamishness when it comes to infections and related.